Physical Intervention – The Risks

There are undoubtedly risks involved when any employee takes any physical action against another person in the workplace; there are risks to the employee's safety, the ‘customer's’ safety and to the business from litigation and compensation claims.


However in environments where employees are at risk of physical, aggression or violence; or where employees are expected in their role to restrain, escort or remove customers under certain circumstances, the risks are even greater if employers don’t provide suitable Physical Interventions Training.


There are both perceived risks and real risks in providing physical intervention training; these are greatly exaggerated if suitable training is not given. We carry out a Training Needs Analysis for our clients to determine the suitability of physical intervention training and the level of training candidates will require.



The risks in providing physical intervention training


The Employee: There is a very small risk of minor injury involved in any kind of physical intervention training. However as a training organisation we recognise this risk and through our risk assessment process, reduce it to an absolute minimum. To date (January 2010) we have a 100% success rate, with no injuries reported to us during or following our training programme.

All our trainers are highly experienced, well trained (including in First Aid) and all our procedures are regularly reviewed. We work in small group sizes to ensure we are able to supervise candidates effectively, to ensure they practise techniques safely.


We emphasise throughout our courses that we are teaching techniques which do not require force or strength to succeed, thus further reducing the risk of injury during the practice of the techniques.


The Employer: There is often a perceived risk by employers that if they ask employees to attend physical intervention training, it is an acknowledgement that they are working in a 'dangerous' environment. We present training to demonstrate the benefits of proactive training in making the workplace even safer.

We never glamorises the need for physical intervention, we emphasise throughout our training, that if physical intervention is required it is because there has been a failure at another level. We take every opportunity to emphasise that the skills learned in Conflict Management  and Resolution Training always be used first to resolve situations and that they should be reconsidered at every step of the process.


Physical intervention training does not give employees 'carte blanche' to use force. The nature of our training has the very opposite effect. By training employees in low-impact professional physical intervention techniques, employers are setting the boundaries for their use. At the same time they are adding to their due diligence defence for the business should an employee use any type of inappropriate physical intervention with a ‘customer’ which falls outside the guidelines they have been issued and trained in.



The risks if physical intervention training is NOT provided


The Employee: Employees who are expected to restrain, escort or remove individuals as part of their role / job description or who may face danger from harassment, aggression or physical violence in the process of their work will, if not trained, resort to resolving situations using force. Natural instinctive reactions tend to result in force being used rather then a controlled professional response. The result can often be injury (both physical and emotional) being sustained by employees and ‘customers’ alike.

The Employer: Organisations suffer if training standards are not up to the expectations placed on their employees. For example, expecting an employee to physically intervene if a incident occurs without providing suitable physical intervention training, will result in a variety of different methods being used to resolve the situation; some will resort to using force or aggression in their handling of the problem. Without a co-ordinated response which shows the same level of professionalism throughout, the consequences can lead to injury compensation claims, stress, rising employee absenteeism rates and high staff turnover.

If the employee or customer is hurt in the course of their interaction, the first place solicitors involved in litigation or the Health and Safety Executive will look, is the training given to those involved.

An equally serious threat to the business is the damage that aggression and violence can do to the organisation itself. Reputations are hard to come by in the first place, but they are even harder to regain once lost. Service levels suffer when employees are nervous or overly cautious. Untrained employees tend to treat everyone as a ‘threat’ and therefore do not provide the levels of service they would otherwise be capable of.

If violence and aggression is met with violence and aggression, situations will escalate and customer confidence will be lost; if they are met with a professional co-ordinated approach, the ultimate prize of customers feeling safe in your workplace, can be achieved.

Not providing suitable training for employees on the front-line is not an option.



If employees work in an environment where they may have to use physical intervention, then the employer has a duty to provide training.


We specialise in low-impact techniques, ones which carry the message of personal and corporate responsibility. Low-impact disengagement, break-away and non pain-compliant restraint and escorting techniques are in; ‘pre-emptive strikes’, ‘head-locks’ and ‘pain-compliant’ techniques are out. All our techniques are easy to learn, easy to master, easy to remember and most importantly easy to implement in a real life situations away from the classroom.


For further information we recommend the guidance in a recent publication by the BII, BIIAB and Skills for Security entitled 'Physical Interventions: Reducing Risk' (available from the BII on 01276 684449).


The publication brought these sector bodies together with representatives from the Metropolitan Police, Security Industry Authority (SIA), The Law Society, Weightmans Solicitors, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust amongst others, to produce a document to help people understand the risks in this relatively new area. It is an area of training that is becoming more and more recognised as having a significant role to play within any environment where individuals face harassment, aggression and violence in their workplace.


We have chosen some key messages from this publication and with the kind permission of the BII have reproduced them here. These excerpts do not constitute a summary and you should contact the BII for a complete copy of the document. These excepts reinforce our message regarding our approach to Physical Intervention Training.



Physical Intervention - Reducing The Risks (excerpts)


Page 4:

“It is generally accepted that there are inherent risks associated with certain licensable functions and especially door supervision. Customers and door supervisors continue to be seriously injured as the result of violent incidents at licensed premises and case law shows both employers employees to be vulnerable if they fail to reduce risk and adopt safer methods of intervention. Case law has reinforced the vulnerability of the licensed premises owner in addition to the security provider through vicarious liability”


Page 7:

“The Decision to teach physical interventions and the scope of such training needs to be underpinned by an objective assessment of the risks. Any such training needs to form part of a balanced strategy that emphasises prevention rather then intervention”


Page 16:

“Employees undertaking security functions will have completed much of the training they need to deal with conflict as part of the SIA Licence to Practise. This should be supported by company and licensed premises specific inductions. The SIA training requirement for door supervisor represents a minimum standard and the obligation remains on employers to provide additional guidance and training highlighted as necessary through their health and safety risk assessment process.”


Pages 17 - 18:

“Where physical interventions training is necessary it needs to refresh and reinforce primary and secondary controls. The employer’s training needs analysis will identify the specific emphasis required for such training and the following areas should be considered in this:


Underpinning knowledge


  • Legal position on the use of force and how to report and account for this
  • Dynamic risk assessment and decision-making
  • Potential medical implications of physical intervention including restraint
  • Medical emergency protocols
  • Alternatives to physical intervention; refresh primary and secondary controls
  • Incident management and emergency communication and protocols
  • De-escalation and exit strategies
  • Teamwork, leadership and communications


Defensive skills


  • Positioning and movement skills
  • Skills for avoiding assault
  • Protection against blows and kicks
  • Disengagement skills (sometimes referred to as ‘break-away’)
  • Rescue and separation skills
  • Non-restrictive guiding skills


Holding skills


  • Restrictive escorting
  • Restraint skills


Additional areas to be considered in training needs analysis include:


  • Awareness of potential weapons including edged and concealed weapons
  • Searching procedures and safe methods
  • Training and guidance on equipment used, for example, communication equipment, protective equipment and mechanical restraint e.g. handcuffs – if issued
  • Training in the management of specific customer groups, for example children.”


Page 18:

“As a rough guide training for staff covering a modest number of disengagement and standing holding / escorting skills is likely to require a minimum of six hours direct contact time on the practical techniques (equivalent to one training day) with a further study time required for the theoretical aspects. These staff will have previously trained in communication and conflict management. A programme involving a higher number of more complex techniques may however require twice as much time to enable delegates to reach an acceptable level. Should horizontal/ground holds be taught these would require additional training time.”


Page 18:

“Physical skills can fade over time with potentially serious consequences. Employers need to establish a training process that ensures staff refresh their skills regularly, through coaching for example, and then formally revalidate their training within a pre-set period.”


Page 21:

“Areas that an employer can consider when selecting a training approach include:

Relevance: the relevance of the skill set to the role, tasks and activities performed

Flexibility: The balance and problem-solving potential of the programme of skills in responding to day-to-day working practices and occasional high-risk incidents

Simplicity: The ease with which the skill set can be learnt and recalled under stress, based upon a minimum of techniques.

Philosophy: The ethos and emphasis of the training, trainer and provider.

Safety: The potential medical risks associated with application of the skills taught and the risks associated with the training methodology. Also the appropriateness of the techniques for use with vulnerable groups.

Effectiveness: The operational effectiveness of the skills applied by both male and female staff of varying experience and aptitude. An effective reporting process will help provide such information.”